Trupti Desai prays at Haji Ali, trust spurns threat

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Mumbai, May 12 (IANS) Bhumata Brigade President Trupti Desai and a few activists prayed at the well known Haji Ali Dargah shrine on Thursday amid heavy police security.

After prayers, Trupti served a 15-days ultimatum to the Dargah trustees to permit women right upto the sanctum sanctorum, failing which she vowed to launch an agitation.

However, a Haji Ali Dargah trustee, Suhail Khandwani, spurned her demands.

“We follow the laws of the land. She came like any other normal devotee today and nobody has stopped her. As for her demands, we shall not be cowed down by such threats,” Khandwani told IANS.

Shortly after daybreak, accompanied by a posse of police, Desai and her supporters walked through the half-a-kilometre narrow bridge on the Arabian Sea to reach the Dargah with scores of other devotees.

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She followed the prevalent customs and respectfully prayed outside — barely four feet away from the inner sanctum, as permitted by the dargah trust and departed a few minutes later.

“I have prayed that women should be allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the dargah as was the case till 2011 … Next time, we shall make attempts to pray there,” Desai told mediapersons later.

She threatened to launch protests if the trustees did not allow women to pray till the spot where men were allowed.

“This is a fight to ensure gender equality at religious places. Today, we witnessed the point where men are allowed and women are not permitted. Within 15 days, the dargah trustees must allow women till the spot where men are permitted, failing which we shall protest,” Desai said.

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Joint Police Comissioner Deven Bharti said: “Desai and others visited the dargah around 6.00 a.m. and left after offering prayers. We have deployed police at the venue.”

Thursday’s visit to the dargah was a follow-up to the aborted agitation carried out by Desai and other NGOs on April 28 under the banner “Haji Ali For All”.

In view of a potentially sensitive situation and entry of political parties on the scene, the police intervened and did not permit Desai to enter the dargah.

The shrine trustees reiterated that permitting women upto the tomb of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari would be “anti-Islam” and claimed immunity as it was a “minority trust”.

The iconic Haji Ali Dargah, where people of all faiths throng, is situated on a small rocky islet in the Arabian Sea, around 500 metres from the Mumbai shoreline at Worli.

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In the past few months, Desai has led successful agitations which culminated in women’s entry to the Shani Shingnapur Temple in Ahmednagar, followed by the Trimbakeshwar Temple in Nashik in April, and a partially successful agitation at the Mahalaxmi Temple in Kolhapur.



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